The aim of the present study was to isolate, identify and characterise novel strains of lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria with probiotic properties from the faeces of exclusively breast-fed infants. Of the 4680 isolated colonies, 758 exhibited resistance to low pH and tolerance to high concentrations of bile salts; of these, only forty-two exhibited a strong ability to adhere to enterocytes in vitro. The identities of the isolates were confirmed by 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) sequencing, which permitted the grouping of the forty-two bacteria into three different strains that showed more than 99 % sequence identity with Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium breve, respectively. The strain identification was confirmed by sequencing the 16S–23S rRNA intergenic spacer regions. Strains were assayed for enzymatic activity and carbohydrate utilisation, and they were deposited in the Collection Nationale de Cultures de Microorganismes (CNCM) of the Institute Pasteur and named L. paracasei CNCM I-4034, B. breve CNCM I-4035 and L. rhamnosus CNCM I-4036. The strains were susceptible to antibiotics and did not produce undesirable metabolites, and their safety was assessed by acute ingestion in immunocompetent and immunosuppressed BALB/c mouse models. The three novel strains inhibited in vitro the meningitis aetiological agent Listeria monocytogenes and human rotavirus infections. B. breve CNCM I-4035 led to a higher IgA concentration in faeces and plasma of mice. Overall, these results suggest that L. paracasei CNCM I-4034, B. breve CNCM I-4035 and L. rhamnosus CNCM I-4036 should be considered as probiotic strains, and their human health benefits should be further evaluated.